Far too precious.
I really, really, really love music. This is not an overstatement in any kind of way. Most of the truly joyful moments in my life that come to mind involve me either playing or listening to music. I can be walking to work like I always do Monday through Friday and the song coursing through my headphones makes me almost physically explode with elation, joy catharsis and elation. It's sometimes so intense I expect to look down and see that I'm walking a few inches above the ground because the music is so transcendent it's caused me to actually levitate. It hasn't happened yet but I won't be surprised at all when it eventually does.
As a result of loving music so much I can be both very critical and very forgiving towards many types of music. If someone tells me that they just get some kind of personal high from listening to a band I find incredibly dull like Travis or Ben Folds Five, I may silently think "Wow, I really can't stand that band" but I am not going to shit all over their joy - love the fuck out of what you love and don't change that to conform to some notion of what is hip, cool or edgy. That being said, there is one thing I have found that I really cannot stomach from any music at all: preciousness. And this week I was reminded of my total dislike for precious music via a hilariously brilliant post at World Famous in San Francisco.
Oh my lord Dolly Parton, I really can't believe how much a precious musician, band or song (or even just a blog post about one) can arouse such a violent, blinding hatred in me so quickly! I really enjoyed the movie Juno despite the fact that some of the dialog felt a little stilted in the beginning. But what almost caused me to catapult out of my seat and sprint towards the exit was the excruciating songs of Kimya Dawson peppered throughout the entire soundtrack. Aside from the fact that I felt like the songs were used far too often and felt as if they were some sort of prescriptive force demanding that we think the characters were feeling precisely as the lyrics indicated, the songs themselves made me wish I was fucking earless. But was it because the songs were bad or Dawson is somehow a shitty musician? No, it's because they were so fucking precious it was unbearable.
According to her Wikipedia page, Kimya Dawson was born in November of 1972. This means that come November of 2008 she will be 36. Which is almost 40. Which, if you ask me, is far too fucking old to be singing precious-ass motherfucking songs about tire swings and boys named "Toby" and doing it all over rudimentary guitar strumming in some cutesy little girl voice.
Now, don't get me wrong, I can be a big sap for certain things musical. Ask anyone about my massive love for Lesley Gore or my enduring adoration for twee indie-popsters from the 90s like Tiger Trap and Heavenly. But, despite the cheery, lovey tones of a lot of the songs by many of these artists, they never fell into the precious pit for me. For every "Supercrush" that Rose Melberg had there was a "Supreme Nothing" not to mention loads of fuzzed out guitars and bashing drums. For all of Emelia Fletcher's crooning about "C is the Heavenly Option" on their first album, she was singing a far different tune about date rape and misery on "Hearts+Crosses" 2 years later. And for all the "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" that Lesley rhapsodized about in a few of her more sugary moments, there was always "You Don't Own Me" or "I'm Coolin' No Foolin;" where she declared her independence and sent an errant lover packing. There was always a balance - sweet and bitter, tender and tough, beautiful and biting. With Kimya Dawson it's like a forced adolescence full of video game references, herbal tea and lots and lots of knitting. It's so quirky! So cute! So simple! So nauseating!
I don't mean to hate on poor Kimya solely, although she proves my point quite well by shocking the hell out of me with not being 23. A lot of this critique can be applied to musicians and bands ranging from Feist to Tilly and the Wall; from Iron & Wine to The Postal Service (yes, I said it - I don't care if tons of people love both of these things, the 800 gallons of preciousness oozing from every song is just too much to handle after awhile). It's not so much that it's all super cutesy or super-childish but rather it's about this kind of perpetual adolescence mixed with someone hitting you over the head with an anvil of their quirkiness and awkwardness. I am so different! So odd! So unique! I eat bell peppers as if they were apples just like Nora from season one of Project Runway!! It all smacks of being so staged and so over-thought. And, yes, lots of music and performance has many an element of pretension and intentional theatrics - but when you try present yourself as this for real person in your torn, threadbare long underwear shirt and your organic fiber pants and your charming, awkward kookiness that you just can't help but inject into your bedroom-produced music - it's time to grow the fuck up a little and realize that precious needs to end when you've passed the point of pooping your diaper and waiting for all of your teeth to grow in.